Of late many labels carry two words knowledgeable consumers value – vieille vignes aka old vines.
Truly, old vines in the right hands can produce wines of incomparable concentration and complexity with wonderful aromas and direct flavours.
While winemakers will tell you that vieille vigne wines are made from at least 25-year-old vines, this may or may not be true. In fact, I am not referring to such wines. Really old wines are at least 50, and more often than not 100 years or older. In such places, and this is rare, phylloxera never struck.
One is the Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea. Some vines are supposedly more than four centuries old where the dreaded phylloxera could not reach and even, if it did, would not have survives on the volcanic soil.
In South Australia, Barossa- and Eden valleys were also lucky enough to escape the devastating louse.
A few vineyards in California’s remote valleys never experienced phylloxera, and boast century old vines. Cyprus, and Chile were protected by their geography, and a few rare vineyards nurture truly old vines.
Old vines produce only a few small bunches of exquisitely flavourful grapes and in the hands of caring and skilful winemakers yield remarkable wines that age well, but, understandably, they are expensive.
There are now movements afoot to create a worldwide registry of truly old vineyards with old vines.
California boasts authentically, 145 very old vineyards, some going back to 1880’s. Most are Zinfandel vines, followed by Syrah, Carignan, Alicante-Bouchet, and Mourvedre aka Monastrell or Mataro.
Greece, Turkey, Chile and Argentina may have some very old vineyards but it is difficult to authenticate. Documenting such claims by examination requires a lot of funds.
If you ever come across a truly old vine wine, you are unlikely to ever forget the olfactory experience.